In San Diego Ruth & I visited some new attractions and revisited some we had seen before but not recently. The Lyon Air Museum was new, but we had been to the Cabrillo National Monument before. It had been several years between visits, however. I had forgotten much of what is below in this essay, and times have changed for me and mine. I did remember the drive up to this point and the spectacular view of San Diego’s harbor that it made possible. That has not changed.
Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo remains a mysterious historical figure. What is fact is that he was the first European to set his feet on the American West Coast. He was exploring it for Spain beginning in 1842, not that long after Columbus landed in America seeking a route to China. Before that Cabrillo had been a landowner, a miner, and a shipbuilder. He or his crew probably made it as far north as Oregon’s Rogue River, but no one knows for sure how far north they traveled. What is for sure is that a statue of Cabrillo graces Point Loma where this national monument is.
Cabrillo was also the first human to see San Diego’s harbor that he described as a “very good port”. It remains so. He called the area San Miguel. On his way north he saw some islands and the place where a city of 9 million would grow, Los Angeles and its many offshoots. He found the area smoky. Cabrillo had skirmishes with the local Chumashes and broke an arm and a leg. He died the next year due to infections, and his chief pilot took command. About 800 miles of coastland was claimed for Spain. Today visitors see his statue, thrilling harbor and ship views, the old Point Loma lighthouse, a kelp forest, a whale overlook, and a visitors’ center. If not careful, they also see rattlesnakes and biting animals. They also witness sandstone cliffs and a tidepool. This 422 uplift is one of the best preserved intertidal areas on the Southern California Coast, but purists will find that they have to go to Canada now to see pristine tidepools and the like.
This area remains an important military reserve too because it overlooks a strategic harbor and the Pacific Ocean. The Point Loma Lighthouse is traditional but worth seeing. Active between 1855 and 1891, its 11 keepers included 2 women, one of whom was a lighthouse keeper’s wife named Maria Israel.
Point Loma is definitely worth seeing even for those who want historical figures to be given less attention.